Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s Zulu was my main language at home and at school. I then moved on to multi-racial schools and started learning English and learning in English, it’s been like that since I was 9 years old. I am a fluent English speaker and my Zulu is also top notch and I’m also in the process of learning French.
My child being able to speak Zulu is such a close cause to my heart, even before the thought of having children crossed my mind I knew that said future child would learn Zulu first at home. I know these days it can be tricky for parents to teach children their home language in a world where English dominates but I think with a bit of effort it can be done.
Speaking Zulu at home
From birth I’ve made sure to speak Zulu when I’m at home and around Mpilo, it is quite a challenge for me because I have to make a concerted effort to do it. Fortunately for us Mpilo’s nanny is Zulu speaking and thus she gets spoken to in isiZulu during the day and this has helped her to develop her vocabulary.
Reading Zulu books
You know how hard it is to find illustrated books with black girls? Now multiply that by 100 when you try find illustrated books with black girls written in Zulu! So we’re stuck in that conundrum – how I’ve solved it is that I read to Mpilo is Zulu even though the books are written in English, lol! Baby girl doesn’t know how to read yet so she doesn’t know the difference. Even the picture books, I tell her the name of the animals/objects in Zulu rather than in English, this helps her to expand her Zulu vocab.
I was lucky here because Mpilo is a gqom’ baby! Her favourite music genre is gqom’ and she’s slowly getting to learn the words to the songs. This year she started going to a play class and she’s finally getting to learn some age appropriate songs in English.
If you have a little one, I’d like to know how you are teaching them their vernacular language. Does it matter to you that they can speak it or not?